60 Thompson St, in the Thompson Hotel
Price Range: $18-28
We are seated beside a limpid pool where votives and water lilies float, and fresh orchids hang from above. Kittichai’s serene and sexy dining room almost transports us to an exotic locale — but thanks to the five black-clad male-model-ish servers surrounding our table, standing at attention with their hands behind their backs, we’re reminded that we haven’t left Soho. Apparently, the place was totally booked after 6:30pm on this particular Thursday night, so we jetted in by six — only to find an empty restaurant, save the men in black.
My friend Katy leans over the table and says in her best stage whisper, “Are you gonna mention that the ninjas were fuckin’ loitering up in our grill, like, ready to karate chop us?” I nod solemnly, wondering why they don’t disperse. They had to hear her. Under the weight of their stares, we sip a clean, citrusy Thom Martini ($10) and a just-sweet-enough Lychee Martini ($11), enhanced by a swirl of creamy coconut milk.
We feast on a huge serving of Eggplant, Shrimp, and Mushrooms in a tempura-like batter ($13), but the accompanying sauce is in the bottom of its deep clay bowl, making it impossible to dip the pieces on top and leaving the last bites a bit mushy. The ninja-recommended Bean Curd ($6) in a spicy cashew sauce is ok, but doesn’t involve either heat or nuts. We focus on the Chocolate Baby Back Ribs in a comforting mole sauce ($11) — wait, isn’t this supposed to be a Thai restaurant?
Despite the plethora of open tables, a middle-aged couple is seated directly next to us as the man is shouting into his cell phone, “Yeah, just take that penthouse we looked at today. It’s complicated. I’ll explain later.” Awesome.
Anyway, the Banana Blossom and Minced Artichokes Salad ($12) is steeped in a sweet chili dressing and served in a curl of red endive leaves that balances the salad’s flavor and texture with mild bitterness and crunch. As I’m messily taking a bite, I catch the eye of Penthouse Guy, who — in the midst of his order — asks our waiter to describe all the dishes on our table. Now the five ninjas, our waiter, and the middle-aged Penthouse Couple all shift their stares our way. I realize that I’m raving about Devendra Banhart’s new album with my mouth full of banana blossoms and abruptly stop singing that song about Chinese children. I want to go home.
But we’re not done with the delectably fresh, diced Tuna Tartare ($8), which is meant to be spooned into little pastry cups. As soon as the cups disappear, a ninja sweeps in to remove the plate, but Katy defends it, valiantly cupping her hands over the jewel-like heap of tuna that remains. She scoops it over her perfectly sticky Jasmine Rice ($3) and whispers into the ninja’s wake, “I hope that acting career works out for ya, buddy, because it would suck to be stuck here forever.”